An exchange of emails released on Monday by the US State Department shows that Clinton was lobbied in May 2009 by a close friend, Brian Greenspun, to take action after a senior figure in the US Jewish community accused the film festival of “inherent antisemitism” and an “abomination”.
The festival had just handed back a £300 grant from the Israeli embassy in London to cover the travel expenses of Tali Shalom Ezer, whose film Surrogate was being shown in Edinburgh during the festival, after Loach protested.
Backed by pro-Palestinian campaigners, the British director urged filmgoers to boycott the festival, saying: “The massacres and state terrorism in Gaza make this money unacceptable. With regret I must urge all who might consider visiting the festival to show their support for the Palestinian nation and stay away.”
A former college roommate to Bill Clinton, Greenspun sent Clinton, then US secretary of state, an email from his brother-in-law, Bruce Ramer, a former president of the American Jewish Committee and an entertainment lawyer in Los Angeles, which warned that the festival’s decision could damage a UK-Israel treaty on film production.
It also fed the far wider boycott movement and, Ramer hinted, promoted violence against Israel.
“We need, for many reasons, to have the US protest and condemn this outrageous boycott and to oppose the anti-Semitism inherent in it,” Ramer wrote, adding “because of the inherent wrongness of it and that if it succeeds, it will encourage and motivate those who fomented the boycott to other, probably even worse, action”.
After Greenspun told Clinton “there is no voice” speaking out against Loach’s calls, Clinton said she was working on “the most effective way forward”, adding: “We have some good ideas as to what our govt can do, but we also want to see pressure from local people brought on the British and Scottish govts.”
She asked her deputy chief of staff at the State Department, Jacob Sullivan, to “reach out to the community in London and Edinburgh to urge them to raise this w PM Brown and other govt officials? We’d like to see top down and bottom up pressure. Let me know what you think.”
It is unclear from the cache of emails whether her officials took steps to lobby the UK and Scottish governments, but the chain of emails ends with a note from Sullivan stating: “The Israeli director is now being funded directly by the festival. The organizers issued a sort of apology today.”